Graphic Novel Review: Svetlana Chmakova’s The Weirn Books, Vol. 1: Be Wary of the Silent Woods

Welcome to an all-new graphic novel review post! On the docket today, courtesy of the folks at JY for Kids/Yen Press, is a look at bestselling graphic novelist Svetlana Chmakova‘s newest release: The Weirn Books, Vol. 1: Be Wary of the Silent Woods. Read on for my thoughts on the graphic novel as well as a special extended excerpt!

In the Night Realm, vampires, shifters, weirns, and other night things passing for human prowl the streets… but they still have to go to school! Ailis and Na’ya are pretty average students (NOT losers), but when a shadow starts looming and a classmate gets all weird, they are the first to notice. It gets personal, though, when Na’ya’s little brother D’esh disappears – it’s time to confront the secrets of the forbidden mansion in the Silent Woods!

Svetlana Chmakova, the creator behind the hugely successful and lauded Berrybrook Middle School graphic novel series, turns to the fantasy realm with the first entry in a new graphic novel series. The Weirn Books, Vol. 1: Be Wary of the Silent Woods is a fast-paced, hold-on-to-your-seat read that opens up an exciting- often terrifying and chilling- world filled with fantastic characters.

Cousins Ailis, Na’ya live in a New England coastal town called Laitham. Ailis, our narrator, tells readers that Laitham is “home to human and human-passing night things- vampires, shape-shifters, mermaids…and weirns”. Ailis, as we quickly learn, is a weirn: a witch “born with a demon guardian spirit”- called an astral- that is “bound to them for life”. Ailis and Na’ya, along with classmates Jasper, Russ, and nemesis Patricia, attend a middle grade school for Night Things where they learn about things like alchemistry, crytozoology, spell practice, and astral racing. Outside of school, Ailis and Na’ya- and Na’ya’s adorable little brother D’esh- spend time at their grandma’s magic shop. One day, while helping with clean-up, the cousins uncover a decades-old newspaper clipping detailing a tragedy involving missing weirn children and an accused headmistress. A devastating story that reveals itself to have affected their grandma directly, Ailis teams up with Na’ya for some investigative work when unsettling shifts and peculiar events begin to occur in the present-day…events that ramp up to a new level of panic when D’esh suddenly goes missing.

While there are a number of disparate story elements at play here, Chmakova keeps all of the story tangents working together thanks to: a fast introduction of characters and setting; concise backstory; great use of bold and/or sweeping action panels; and character asides. All of these storytelling principles allow for readers to settle right into the story and stay engrossed to the end. Certain facets of the story, for example, Ailis’ apparent crush on a friend, Na’ya’s powers and dragon obsession, or the fact of Ailis’ parents who are just briefly mentioned as being away, leave so many possibilities to be explored in future Weirn books. Add to that the spectacularly creepy and ominous cliffhanger ending and Be Wary of the Silent Woods will likely have readers more than eager to dive back into this very cool and very eerie world.

Overall, The Weirn Books, Vol. 1: Be Wary of the Silent Woods is a terrific, richly atmospheric graphic novel that perfectly balances its quick-moving fantastical plot with solid and immediately likable lead characters, as well as moments of levity and punchy middle-school drama. For readers who have loved and are familiar with Svetlana Chmakova’s recognizable and distinct manga-style of graphic novel presentation à la Awkward, Brave, and Crush, Be Wary of the Silent Woods will likely be a welcome, thrilling romp to dive into (albeit one in a different genre!). Readers who are perhaps unfamiliar with the creator’s previous books but are looking for an adventure-filled, exciting graphic novel series to crack into might find themselves especially enamored with Chmakova’s latest.

Courtesy of the kind folks at JY for Kids/Yen Press, here is a very special sneak peak inside Be Wary of the Silent Woods! I hope you enjoy!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of JY for Kids/Yen Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Author: michelle@fabbookreviews

Reference & Children's Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.

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